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Modern Caveman

This is our fifth instalment in The Long Stroll series – we’re following a modern caveman / madman / hobo / survivalist / straight up good guy down the Te Araroa trail in New Zealand, all 3000 km’s of it barefoot, hunter gather style….


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In a month i’ll be heading off to live the life of a modern nomadic caveman, along the Te Araroa trail. I will say up front, I love technology! So, this isn’t a rejection of modern life but more of a rediscovery of old skills. It has been a long two years of saving my funds, training my body and of course learning new skills. I am no survivalist expert by any stretch of the imagination and I am sure life on the trail will make this apparent.

Finding sources of ancient knowledge and applying them to my plan of walking the Te Araroa for six months has been a challenge in itself. But with this knowledge and a little imagination I will find ways to over come obstacles in my way by using adaptation as a means for survival.

Modern cavemaning (I’m making it a word) is tough when you live in a city. There are a lot of old skills that don’t work because cops don’t take kindly to naked men running around with sharp sticks chasing local dogs. But there are a few things our ancestors used to do that can be adapted for the modern human. Such as…

Flax weaving

When I learnt to weave I read that the first Maori’s to come here were weaving banana leaves in the islands and the closest thing to banana leaf on the mainland was the nikau leaf. Then some smart cookie worked out that by platting the leaves of flax together to resemble the nikau they could work with a material not normally used for weaving but was stronger and more abundant. With that story in mind I started using a material I had an abundance of too…plastic bags. Once you start weaving you start to see that you can weave almost anything. The principles of weaving are very simple yet can lead to complex work.

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Left: Nakau leaf. Right: Beginning of a plastic bag weave.

Flint knapping

Stone tool making is so time consuming! And unfortunately the nice stuff like flint and obsidian aren’t just lying around where I live. What there is, is a massive amount of glass (in peoples recycling) and grey wacky (in peoples gardens). Both great for starting out your stone tool making skills. They are not the hardest material so won’t last long but they are easy to work with and can be found everywhere. All you need is a hammer stone, a sand stone and eye protection!

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Left: Gray wacky stone. Right: Glass spear head.

Gathering

In New Zealand, Maori had a large variety of greens that they used to eat, today most of them are considered weeds. So, the modern urban dwelling caveman never has to buy leafy greens as long as they don’t mind doing a bit of neighbourhood gardening.

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Hunting

Hunting in an urban environment is challenging for cavemen who don’t want to anger local cat and dog owners. The key to getting protein is to not be very picky; rats and pigeons may not be the best choice because of poisons and such. But, there is another source….bugs. They are by far the easiest to collect and seeing as they come from your garden they can be safer to eat. Add a few spices and fry lightly in some butter and you have something that is pretty delicious (maybe).

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In general any skill can be transferable this is why a lot of my focus has been in learning a large verity of skills to give me the flexibility to deal with as many solutions I am certain to face on the trail. Te Araroa will put all of my knowledge and new found skills to the test, here’s hoping I learnt the right stuff.

Jory Akuhata is hunting, gathering, and making his way across New Zealand. Follow him here, and here

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